Tuesday, June 12, 2012

And Pop Culture Comes in for the Win

In a month my daughter will turn 13-years-old.  (She was four-years-old when I started this blog.  That is seriously nuts.)

In some ways she has been acting like a typical 13-year-old since she was 3.  But in others she is strangely both very naive and very mature.

For example, she has never been even the slightest bit interested in pop culture.  And so she is kind of clueless about the things other girls her age are really into.  But she has been obsessed with things that many adults don't even understand.  Like Latin, classical music and Shakespeare.

She is so obsessed with Shakespeare that she memorizes soliloquies for fun.  She has read almost every play multiple times.  And she first reads the original text and then reads the annotated text just to get every nuance.  She writes Shakespeare fan fiction.  (I'm not saying it is good, but she writes it.)  And then she wants to talk about it all.  Obsessively.


She loves to read in general.  When she was about eight-years-old she read Sherlock Holmes and fell in love.  She has had a thing for Sherlock Holmes ever since.

When the first Sherlock Holmes movie with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law came out we thought she was too young to see it.  It was PG-13 after all.  I don't remember her even being aware of the movie.

But when the second movie came out last Christmas she was desperate to see it.  But my husband was home for his RandR and he took me to see it on a date night.

She was pissed.

So after he went back to Qatar, I took her to see it one night while my son was sleeping over a friend's house.

Her first pop culture obsession was born.  Her first crush.  And it is on...

Robert Downey Jr.

RDJ.  Iron Man.  A man who is older than her father.  In fact, a man who is quite a bit older than her father and has a son who is quite a bit older than her.

Never mind that as a child of the eighties I mostly think of Robert Downey Jr. as a drug addict and outlandish member of the Brat Pack.  And a convict.

But now I have a child who writes "I love Robert Downey Jr." in her notebooks and can't stop asking about when Iron Man 3 and Sherlock Holmes 3 will come out.  She even plays the music from the movies on the piano and violin.

Let me just reiterate that Robert Downey Jr. is 47-years-old.


Sherlock Holmes:  A Game of Shadows was released on Blu-Ray today.  Yes, I went right out and bought it.  And I am currently using it as a bribe to get her to actually clean her room

And it is working.

Hurray for RDJ.

If you can't beat 'em...use 'em to your advantage.

And I'll enjoy Jude Law (who is my own age!) and the homoeroticism along the way.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The 10%

I think that parenting is about 90% suck and about 10% overwhelming pride and joy.  Somehow the 10% manages to make the 90% all worth while.

We have a lot of suck around here.  We do.  Absolutely.  Don't think that we don't.

But as a mom who spends very little time with other adults (and absolutely zero time bragging about her kids to other adults) sometimes I need to use the little ole blog to brag share.

First of all, let's take my daughter the violinist.  I'm pretty much ready to beat her with her bow for the lackadaisical attitude she has toward practice, especially a month before we our embarking on our concert tour of Italy and two weeks before her audition for a concert orchestra.  (That's part of the 90%.)

BUT, yesterday after a concert at school, the mother of one of her classmates called just to tell me that she had been moved to tears by my daughter's performance.  (That's part of the 10%)

Now let's look at my son.  The kid was once in the 1st percentile for speech.  The very lowest percentile possible.  Very few people could even understand him and I had to translate for him all the time.  Plus, many of his speech problems were physical and would take much therapy to overcome.  (That's part of the 90%)

BUT, four years later, the kid is absolutely known for his speaking.  He's freaking won awards.  He's still not in the 90th percentile, he has to concentrate and work at almost every words he says.  But these last few months he's been making quite a name or himself.

1)  He totally stole the show in the Wizard of Oz.
2)  He won the storytelling competition for his school.
3)  So he got to go on to the regional forensics competition and help his school win second place.
4)  He was selected to read a poem he wrote at Writer's Day at school which is apparently a huge honor that I didn't even know existed.
5)  Just today he gave an election speech for the Student Council executive board and stole the show again.

I don't know where he gets it from.  His parents are the shyest people you could ever meet, but he thrives on public speaking.  But to have him excel at something we despaired of him ever being able to do at all is overwhelming to me.  (That's part of the 10%.)

I'm not one to give standing ovations when they are not deserved.  I am not one to let my kids overhear me bragging about them, although that is supposed to be the best confidence builder you can give them.  I'm just not comfortable with that.  I am more likely to criticize and tell them when they are not measuring up to our high expectations.  So I have no idea where they get their confidence from.

But I have a feeling that it might be because when we praise them, they know it really means something.

And after my son gave his speech today, he came up and asked me how he did.

I wrapped my arms around him and said, "Awesome, buddy."  (That's the 10%)

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Checking In, Checking Out

So I was doing the math.

My husband has been gone for almost 18 months now. Yes, he was home for two and a half months last Spring, and he was home for two weeks at Christmas. But we've pretty much been living life without him for a year and a half.

And we're doing okay. We really are.

I hesitate to say things like, "Eh, we're used to it," because it makes it sound like we've moved on without him and that is not the case. But, well, we're used to it.

We somehow manage to remain a team even though we barely see each other. I'm honestly not sure how we do that. In some ways I know I do and say things that all the family advisers on base tell us NOT to do, but it works for me. For us.

We know each other pretty damn well and we have honesty. And we have commitment to keeping the team together. I think those are the keys.

But there are two things that weigh on me (or at least two things apart from the millions of parenting worries I have everyday).

The major thing is that I am worried about our reunion. As much as I miss that man, as much as I love him, I am used to living without him. Throwing him back into the mix is going to be hard. I'm trying to be realistic about it.

He's going to be annoyed at my sleeping habits. He's going to hate how I sleep in on the weekends. He's going to criticize how much Diet Coke I drink. He's not going to like the way I discipline the kids. He's going to be here to see all the weird ass things I do now because I spend most of my time alone.

And that's the second thing. I spend a lot of time alone. A lot.

I think it is starting to show. I'm getting a little weird.

Okay, if I'm being honest, I've always been a little weird. I acknowledge that. I like to be alone. I'm happiest in my own head. But my head can be a scary place.

Secretly, I have always been a little bit afraid that I am nuts. Crazy. Weird. Different than anyone. Obsessive, maybe? I have escapism down to a science.

Being alone so much brings all those weird things to the forefront. I am basically going into my own head for companionship, and that cannot be healthy.

But I also secretly think that maybe a lot of us secretly think we're nuts. Especially creative people. At least I hope that is true. My daughter seems to be that way. (Or maybe she just got my crazy genes.)

I manage to stay pretty damn normal as far as the world can see. And it isn't an act. I take the kids so many places when they aren't in school And when I'm socializing with the violin moms, or working on a project with other volunteers, or going to lunch with a friend, the nutso part of my brain does seem to shut off.

In fact, about 95% of the time I spend with the kids I feel normal. (The other five percent of the time is when I am wondering if they may actually truly drive me crazy, but I think all parents experience that.)

It all comes down to this. I like being alone. So maybe I kind of like the crazy part of my brain too.

In three months and seven days my husband will be headed back home. That gives me just enough time to start pulling my shit together.

His arrival will not be a magic solution for everything that's bothering us. I keep reminding my kids of that. But it sure will be nice to have him home again.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My Husband Will Love This

One of the ways I've been dealing with my husband returning to the Middle East after his R&R vacation is by watching a lot of movies.

I've been watching movies that he probably wouldn't enjoy watching with me. I've been enjoying curling up with my laptop after the kids go to bed and watching a bunch of rom coms.

A couple of nights ago I was watching Closer and had to go to the bathroom. So I hit pause and jumped up.

When I came back to my computer, this was paused on my screen.

Hello, Jude Law.

I've never even really been a big fan of Jude Law, but, hello.

Although Closer was all about sex, there really weren't any explicit scenes. Jude wasn't even shirtless. My pause caught the one moment he was pulling on pants to go for a smoke.

Thank you small bladder. And hello libido.

I think I'll go see that Sherlock Holmes movie again.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tuna Boy's First Awesome Decade

As of today, I am the mother of a twelve-year-old and a ten-year-old.

That's insane.

That's an entire decade of parenting two kids and I haven't gotten any better at it in the last ten years.

When you're a mom, one of the first questions people ask when they meet you is, "How old are your kids?"

It's funny because back when both kids were under five, people would always react to my answer with something akin to horror. "Oh, you have your hands full!"

Then for many years, people didn't react that way at all. Suddenly, I'm hearing horror again.

But, as hard as it can be, I actually love having kids these ages. They are more fun now. Our relationships are more meaningful. More full. (Plus, they are old enough to really help with chores.) These two kids and I have been through a lot together.

My son and I are especially close. And I am so very happy that his father could be here for his birthday.

He is one very special kid. Words cant really describe how special, but I suppose I could start with empathetic, appreciative, loving, so very funny, creative, musical, exuberant, accepting, smart, hard working and self assured.

I guess that's a pretty good start.

My kid loves life more than anyone I know. And I am so appreciative for that.

So, happy 10th birthday, baby boy! I don't know what I would do without you.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Adam Sandler Can Suck It

Tonight we blew off two local parades (I even had tickets for seating at one of them) to go see Jack and Jill at the movies instead.


I don't know. I just didn't feel like being outside and braving crowds tonight. And the kids wanted to see Jack and Jill. And I wanted to eat popcorn.

That's 91 minutes of my life I'll never get back again.

The popcorn was good and fresh though thanks to all the Twilight fans.

My daughter said the movie was better than she thought it would be. She's getting old enough to get some of the jokes that used to go over her head.

But my son hated it.

I looked over at him at one point and he was crying. Crying! At an Adam Sandler movie!

He said he didn't like it because the brother and sister's relationship was so terrible. He said, "It was heartbreaking!"

As we were leaving the theater he put his hand on his sister's back and asked her, "We'll never be like that, will we?"

Holy crap. Leave it to my kid to be the only person in the world to walk out of an Adam Sandler movie having learned some deep moral lesson.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On Failing and Jealousy

Lately I find myself feeling kind of jealous of other parents.

Okay, that's kind of a lie. In truth, I go through phases of feeling superior to other parents (patting myself on the back for the awesome kids I've raised) and being completely jealous of the normal, happy families and kids that seem to be everywhere (when my kids are going through yet another thing).

Sometimes, I want to go up to parents whose kids are doing something normal like riding bikes and say, "Um, hello. Do you realize how completely freaking lucky you are to have a kid who can ride a bike?" My kid couldn't and wouldn't learn how to ride a bike until he was 9 1/2.

I know it probably isn't rational but I am jealous of people with normal kids who seem to have normal problems and often don't appreciate how good they have it.

My kids are great in a lot of ways. They are extremely polite, they get along with each other better than any siblings I've ever met, they are bright and engaging, and they are well behaved at school. And I know that there are people who are probably jealous of ME for having kids with those qualities.

But I feel like they have the "buts".

It is parent/teacher conference time for most and my friends are posting on Facebook about their conferences.

It feels like everyone is saying, "We had such a great meeting with Timmy's teacher!"

Or, "We're so proud of Brittany. She got all A's on her report card. Her teacher says she is the best in her class!"

And I want to throw eggs at my laptop. Oh, poo. It must be nice to be you.

What I get to hear every year is, "He is so wonderful and polite. And funny! And bright and creative. BUT now lets talk about his speech problems and his spelling problems and..."

Or I get to hear, "She is so sweet and well-behaved, BUT she doesn't participate in class and she is overly sensitive and she has melt downs and she is so disorganized it affects her grades and..."

Basically it always comes down to, "Your kids are so great! But..."

I know I am an extremely intense person when it comes to something I believe in. And I believe in teaching my children values and respect. And that is not easy. So I feel like I am constantly correcting and admonishing and teaching and not spending enough time celebrating and laughing.

So, for example, I can't just ignore that my daughter lied to me again and take her shopping. But I am jealous of parents who can!

My husband thinks I am completely nuts. (Probably rightfully so.)

He tells me that every kid has their problems. But most parents choose not to see most of them because they don't want to see them. They hear what they want to hear. And besides, they would be posting, "Our little Johnny is so awesome!" even if he was failing every subject and spending most of his time in detention.

He's probably right but there is a part of me that wishes I could be like that too.

I don't want to be critical of my kids. (My biggest fear in life is turning into my father!) But I am the only one here to teach them the millions of important lessons of life and I can't just shake one off because I don't feel like dealing with it.

But, man. I just wanted one freaking parent/teacher conference without a giant BUT.

And I finally got it.

Woo hoo!

My son's teacher has been teaching fourth grade boys at our school for 45 years. At first she annoyed me a little bit because she isn't quite as tech savvy as most (AND SHE USES ALL CAPS TOO MUCH) but I have come to really love her. She's hysterical. And she loves my kid which of course makes me love her back.

But I walked into this parent/teacher conference not knowing what to expect. Of course I knew his grades but I didn't know how they matched up to the rest of his class. And I'm so used to getting BUTS thrown at me that I brace myself for them days ahead.

So after she told me how great he is doing and gave me his great report card we spent the rest of the time just talking and exchanging stories.

To brag for a minute (Don't hate me!) she said that my son's sense of humor is absolutely legendary among all the teachers and staff. Even the headmaster has shared stories of things my son has said that crack him up. "The teacher next door practically has a crush on him!" she told me. Too funny.

But she ended up telling me how the other parents are always making excuses for their kids. And doing the work for their kids. And blaming everybody and anybody for their kids' failures.

Then she told me that she can tell we are wonderful parents because of the way our son knows himself. She used phrases like self sufficient, comfortable with who he is, responsible for himself, and independent.

And, boy, did I need to hear that.

Letting my kids fail is something that I know I need to do. And I do it. I do. I secretly blame myself and am in agony over every one of their failures. And I certainly don't just let them not care that they failed. But it is the hardest thing I do as a parent.

It makes it seem like my kids are mediocre at everything they do. Because other kids are succeeding because of their parents or they are half assing it and their parents are praising them so much it seems like they are better than my kids.

I hate it!

My daughter and I were sitting together when I felt the need to read the following part of the article out loud to her.

"We’re so afraid our kids won’t measure up that we drive them crazy with overbooked schedules and expectations, and then create a sense of entitlement by assigning blame elsewhere when their performance is lackluster. Sideline parents who challenge coaches, teachers and umpires on behalf of their children are a relatively new development that can’t be considered positive. When I wrote recently about the failure of colleges to teach core curricula that engender critical thinking skills, dozens of professors wrote to complain of students who aren’t willing to work hard yet still expect good grades. Even in college, they said, parents pester professors for better marks for their little darlings."

Then I asked her, "Who do I blame when you fail?"

And she replied, "Us."

"Yup. See?" I told her. "You might hate it but I'm just being a good mom. Aren't you lucky?"

It is kind of sad that I needed that kind of reinforcement but I did. Frankly, things have been kind of hard around here lately. And I needed that little pat on the back and reinforcement of what I'm struggling to do.

Of course what my daughter doesn't know is that I may be telling them to take responsibility for their failures, but secretly I'm blaming myself and judging myself more harshly than she could ever imagine.

And I'm still jealous of normal parents of normal kids.